Just A Bad Mood? How To Identify A Mood Disorder

Is it just a bad mood, a rough couple of days or a mood disorder? Mood disorders are a mental health classification that encompasses depressive and bipolar disorders. Mood disorders are characterized by a serious change in mood, whether higher or lower. It includes, but is not limited to, major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), postpartum depression, SAD (seasonal affective disorder), cyclothymia, and bipolar disorder. There may not be conclusive evidence of the exact causes of mood disorders, as they are typically believed to be a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Researchers agree that bipolar disorder, for example, is often hereditary.

Outlined below is a non-exhaustive list of a few indicators of mood disorders. These can be a great tool to utilize when perceiving a loved one or acquaintances behavior, as well as your own. Identification brings you that much closer to seeking help.


  • Prolonged period of sadness

You have been experiencing continuous sadness for at least two weeks. You find yourself in an unrelenting low, with no clear path to finding emotional higher ground. Those who may not have known you for a long time might think it’s just your personality due to its consistency, but loved ones may be able to acknowledge that there is a significant shift in your mood.

  • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed

You might not go out with friends, watch your favourite series or get dolled up to your heart’s content anymore. You might keep to yourself and move in solitude. Along with being withdrawn, you may notice a decrease in your energy level, as well as increased difficulty completing your usual everyday tasks.

  • Really HIGH highs and really LOW lows

You experience periods of sheer euphoria, where you are absolutely ecstatic about yourself and the world for at least a week at a time. On the other hand, you also experience prolonged periods of mild to severe depressive episodes, where you are low on energy and may just want to be alone. Your mood may cycle like a pendulum for weeks at a time.

  • Disruptive changes in appetite

Whether a loss of appetite or an increase in consumption, you may find yourself having a much different relationship with food than you had before.

  • Changes in sleep pattern

You find yourself either sleeping more or less than normal for an ongoing period of time. You may be sleeping for twelve hours straight, or having an extreme case of insomnia.

  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness and worthlessness

You experience consistent feelings of guilt, hopelessness and worthlessness. An incident or situation might change your perception of yourself and your role in the outcome. You may be blaming yourself for any negative outcomes, perceiving the situation as irreparable.

  • Inability to concentrate and/or make decisions

More often than not, you may be finding yourself either lost in thought or overwhelmed by the thought of decision-making. You have a hard time focusing and sorting through your thoughts as they whirl like a tornado in your head. Your internal issues take automatic precedence to those outside, hence, you find it difficult to clear them out of your way and focus on the external stimuli placed before you.

  • Suicidal ideation

You have been thinking about committing suicide. Where? When? How? You are finding it hard to cope and just want to relinquish your physical existence. You may have mentioned it more than once to someone else, or even made attempts to end your life.


So, now that we know some of the signs, let’s take a snapshot of some of the most commonly occurring mood disorders. Let’s see if any of these describe you.

Major Depressive Disorder, more simply known as depression, is a mood disorder where an individual experiences persistent sadness and low mood, energy and interest for at least two weeks. It is typically characterized by a noticeable disruption in your daily life.

Persistent Depressive Disorder, formerly known as dysthymia, is a form of depression that “persists” for a long time (years). Although it is typically said to not have a significant disruptive impact on your everyday life, you may find that you have a notable loss of interest in these ordinary daily activities, feelings of hopelessness as well as a lack of productivity. Due to its lengthy ongoing nature, sadness begins to seem like a regular aspect of your personality.

Postpartum Depression typically affects new mothers. Due to hormonal changes, the challenges of child care, or even perceptions of physical changes, new mothers find themselves overwhelmed by their new role or new addition, often finding difficulty in bonding with the newborn. This may last a few weeks, or up to a few months.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression where individuals are affected by the change in seasons. Most commonly occurring during the fall and winter seasons, due to a reduction in warmth and sunlight, it must occur for at least two years in a row to enable diagnosis.

Bipolar Disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a mental condition characterized by extreme mood swings and includes emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and and persistent lows (depression). Either mood extreme may last for weeks to months at a time.


When mood disorders are left untreated, it can affect our mentality, quality of life and relationships. One of the most important suggestions would be to educate yourself on the possibilities, and the telltale signs in order to get a better handle on it.

If you suspect that yourself or an acquaintance may be experiencing a mood disorder, you are encouraged to advocate for seeking professional help. In the meantime, here are some tips you can try to implement into your everyday life that may help you feel better, and allow you to experience general improved health:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Sleep well
  • Eat well
  • Utilize any number of stress-reduction techniques
  • Create and maintain a great support system
  • See a therapist
  • Take medication (as prescribed, if prescribed)

So, bad mood or mood disorder? You can tell whether your behaviour is truly a part of your personality or the result of an underlying mood disorder. If you think you have a mood disorder, try to seek help from a mental health professional to first confirm and, if proven, treat it. Don’t suffer in silence because of stigma or a lack of understanding from those around you. Moreover, I know you’ve probably heard many of the tips to feeling better before. However, it never hurts to keep trying.

Continue learning more about yourself and others! 😊